While the Enterprise is undergoing maintenance that requires it to be empty, a group of mercenaries attempt to steal an engine waste product to see it as a weapon. Only Picard, who by a coincidence is back on board, is free to attempt to stop them. And uh…so he does.
Written by Morgan Gendel. Directed by Cliff Bole.
OK, I’m just going to have to say this: Starship Mine may perhaps be the stupidest episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation that I have ever seen.
I know that’s not necessarily a popular opinion. I recall that the episode was generally well-received. And it is quite fun in a lot of ways, and there are lots of moments that work really well.
But man, is it dumb.
I read somewhere that writer Morgan Gendel seem to downplay the connection between his story and Die Hard, but come, it’s patently ridiculous to see Starship Mine as anything but completely inspired by Die Hard. The fact that it was not the first story to follow in Die Hard‘s footsteps in no way contradicts this.
Now, being a Die Hard clone is not necessarily a problem. I like Die Hard (indeed, it is arguably the most important action film ever). My problem is that the team that was making Starship Mine obviously had no interest whatsoever in doing anything but a rousing action film and giving Picard a lot of moments to be awesome. And to a degree, they succeeded, as there are a number of good scenes. I particularly enjoyed seeing Picard take out Devor (a pre-Tuvok Tim Russ) with a saddle. And his attempt to divert attention by pretending to be Mr. Mot was fun as well.
But I like my action films to make at least some level of sense. And here there were just too, too many moments that were unexplained, contrived, or just plain idiotic.
Examples? Well for starters, what was Orton’s involvement in the whole plan to steal the trilithium? Why did he take the people at the reception hostage? Sure, he had to move up his timetable because Geordi detected something with his visor? But what did he detect? What was Orton planning to do originally? Why in fact did he have to do anything?
Why don’t the mercenaries search “Mr. Mot” and discover that he has hidden on him both a weapon and a Starfleet insignia? Why does Kelsey spend time talking to Picard after realizing he’s cut the ladders rather than just getting to him as quickly as possible? Why does Kelsey kill her own people when she’s still got an enemy on board? And why on earth do Kelsey and the others not just kill Picard as soon as they are able to?
How is Picard able to know precisely what the bad guys will when they get to Ten Forward so he can leave that detailed trap for them? If the baryon sweep is moving relentlessly through the ship, how does that one bad guy get passed it to see that his colleague has been killed by it, pick up Picard’s communicator, and then head back to engineering to make his report? If Picard had a communicator, why didn’t he use it to tell anybody anything before the power went out? Why do the planet-side bad guys allow Riker and the others to have multiple, prolonged conversations that they cannot hear? If there are only two of them, which is apparent, why don’t Riker and Data just beat them up (a clear possibility since Riker nearly succeeds on his own)? Why does Picard hypo-spray the captive Devor so quickly, before actually finding out if he’s going to talk or not? And why make such a big deal out of the fact that Picard won’t kill the guy when he goes on to be very casual about directly or indirectly causing everyone else’s death (including Devor’s!) after this.
Why did the same weapon blast that killed Hutchinson only lightly injure Geordi? Why isn’t anyone checking that there isn’t anyone on board the ship before the deadly energy field passes through the ship – especially since Picard went back on board, an event that surely must have been logged? For that matter, where are the other 1000 members of the Enterprise crew? Are none them involved in this maintenance process?
Aaargh! I can’t stand it!
Proponents of this episode will surely respond to all these questions with something like, “Who cares? It was just supposed to be a cool action movie with an awesome Picard! So just relax!” Well, sorry, I like to eat my cake and have it too. I want my awesome Picard to be in a story that displays some degree of such virtues as “sense” and “coherence”. And unfortunately, that ain’t Starship Mine.
• Tim Russ shows up as Devor. He is of course best known for playing Tuvok in most episodes of Star Trek: Voyager. He also had a couple of appearances in Deep Space Nine.
• Glenn Morshower makes his second appearance on Next Generation, this time as Orton. He had previously appeared in Peak Performance, and has had lots of other roles including as survivor Aaron Pierce in 24.
• Tim De Zarn plays Neil. He has other roles in other Star Trek series, as well as a part in the amusingly titled Some Like It Hoth episode of Lost.
• Patricia Tallman (Kiros) is a stuntwoman who has had a few other roles in the Star Trek franchise, often uncredited. She is most well known as Lyta Alexander on several years of Babylon 5.
Shout Out to the Past:
• Nothing really, except for the reference to Mr. Mot, and I suppose to Picard’s love of horses.
• It seems that some of the things people are talking to Picard about at the start of the story (especially Troi and Crusher) seem more like things that Riker should be taking care of.
• Pretty funny moment when Worf manages to get out of going to the reception. “Mr. La Forge, I cannot excuse my entire senior staff. Mr. Worf beat you to it.”
• That’s a little goofy with Picard sitting and loving his starship before he leaves.
• Troi changes her clothes to her old style “uniform” for the party.
• Data’s expressions as he tries to imitate Commander Hutchinson are funny, but maybe a little ovecooked. It gets more and more annoying as it goes along. Hutchinson, for his part, is a ridiculous non-character. Even so, he abrupt and unremarked-upon death seems a little dismissive and cruel.
• Picard’s excitement over his saddle is pretty funny, but doesn’t really work as the episode’s closer.
• Picard attacking Devor, using the saddle as a weapon, is probably the episode’s best scene. It almost looks like he neck-pinches him. But for part of it he moves a bit slowly to the transporter room. (Data is similarly slow at the end of the story)
• At the party, Geordi seems to be eating from a little plate of breath mints.
• Kiros stands and looks at Picard in a really strange way as she takes him hostage with her gun the first time.
• Troi can read Orton and the others pretty well after they attack, but I guess she couldn’t tell that he was a duplicitous stinking liar earlier than that.
• Geordi’s visor can be modified to emit a hypersonic pulse? That thing is awesome!
• I already mentioned it, but I think the episode started to go wrong for me when you discover that Picard is carrying around a weapon that the bad guys didn’t search and find on him. Up until that point, I was mostly enjoying it.
• I know it’s the dramatic pre-commercial stinger, but Picard stares at that baryon sweep in the Jeffrey’s tube for the longest time.
• So it seems that Ten Forward is really at the very front of the ship–the very tip, I guess. Seems a bit of a dangerous place for a club when you are on a ship that so regularly goes to war.
• Kelsey doubts that Picard can slow them down? He has already, remember?
• We never see Kiros after the explosion in Ten Forward. One supposes she was also casually killed by the Baryon Sweep.
• I figured it out eventually but it’s not clear or obvious what Picard is holding when he says that Kelsey won’t get far.
Dialogue High Point
Nothing really stands out, except maybe the bit I mentioned when Geordi tries to get out of the party. But I guess my favorite is Data’s first attempt at small-talk, which is admittedly mostly funny because of the performance and the context rather than the dialogue itself:
It has been quite a day.